TIM WIECLAWSKI/METRO OTTAWA
City shelters are facing a cold-weather conundrum.
They want homeless people to come in out of the cold, but it is increasingly taxing their resources once they do.
When the overnight temperature plunged to -24C this week, the Shepherds of Good Hope had only floor mats to offer homeless people seeking a warm place to sleep.
“We’re overfilled, beyond capacity, with (people) coming in at night to sleep on mats.” said Angela Campbell, Senior Development Officer.
The cold snap has put space at a premium at drop-in centres and homeless shelters across Ottawa. The Ottawa Mission’s beds were full, said Simon Brazier, manager of client services.
The crunch is not only taxing The Mission’s space, it is also swallowing its stock of cold weather supplies, he said.
“Winter came so early this year, a lot of the supplies that would normally last the whole winter have been used in the first month already,” said Brazier.
Blankets, socks, boots and jackets are only available in limited sizes now. The Mission receives most of those items through donations, or purchases them using donated funds.
Centre 507, a Bank Street drop-in, was crowded yesterday as people sought refuge from the weather.
“Since it’s colder and they don’t want to be out wandering around a lot, everybody seems to be staying longer,” said support worker Daniel Lalonde.
The centre has issued more mittens, scarves, blankets and sleeping bags than usual.
“There’s never enough, but especially now when they need those items to keep warm,” he said.
The Salvation Army has been accommodating more people at its drop-in centre and shelter, as well.
“In the Booth Centre itself, we have 168 beds, but we also have a chapel and we could have mats on the floor,” said Michael Maidment, of the Salvation Army.
In severe cold like yesterday, the Salvation Army Street Outreach van operates 24 hours a day, trying first to get people into the shelters, or leaving them cold weather clothing if they won’t.
“We’ll check up on them during the night to make sure they’re okay,” said outreach worker Leigh Reid, who was distributing clothing to homeless people yesterday.